Why kids should rumble with their old man

Your five-year-old son’s got you pinned to the carpet and your three-year-old daughter is sitting on your stomach, holding your arms and laughing her head off. The fun and boisterous “Dad Wrestle” is one of the most enjoyable father-child games there is — even if it can upset mums a bit.

And now research from Newcastle University in NSW has given it the big thumbs-up. The research found that activities such as the Dad Wrestle are a healthy way for children to develop their emotional and physical strength. They also enable dads to experiment with the notion of not being in charge and holding back their physical advantage.

Researcher Dr Richard Fletcher said rough and tumble play helps children “understand what other children are thinking, and develops risk assessment skills”.

During a wrestle, kids find out the limits of their power and learn how to manage excitement, frustration and aggression. In turn, dads indicate when their children have gone too far and show them how to retreat from extremes.

The all-important winning/losing equation also comes into play. As your little ones overpower you with an unorthodox-but-effective combination of limb-pulling, hair-tugging and general malarkey, they experience the thrill of winning. On the flipside, of course, they learn how to lose.

The research also found that fathers who participate in a bit of good-natured rumbling had a more positive relationship with their children.

In a nutshell, then, the Dad Wrestle helps children develop coping skills through testing limits, and fathers get closer to their kids. So next time your young bloke has you in a headlock and your daughter is pummelling your solar plexus and you feel the rough-housing is going a tad too far, remember, your mock defeat is doing your kids a whole lot of good.